Morocco gets new Islamist-led government

Morocco was rocked by pro-democracy protests last year, calling for greater freedoms and an end to corruption.

Rabat: Morocco`s new ruling coalition formed a new government on Tuesday that gives top positions to an Islamist party but also keeps close allies of the king in powerful positions.

The Islamist Justice and Development Party, known as PJD, won the most seats in the Nov. 25 parliamentary elections as part of the wave of election victories by Islamist political parties across North African following a series of uprisings across the Arab world.

"This new government has a true will for reform and we will keep all the promises we made," said Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane outside the palace after the swearing in. "We will do everything to encourage foreign and domestic investment to create a climate of prosperity."

Benkirane`s PJD party is not expected, however, to radically change the politics of this North African kingdom because it had to ally with three other parties close to the palace, and the king still retains veto powers over most decisions.

Morocco was rocked by pro-democracy protests last year, calling for greater freedoms and an end to corruption. The king responded by amending the constitution to grant more powers to the prime minister and parliament.

While the PJD has taken 12 of 31 cabinet posts including prime minister, as well as the foreign ministry, justice ministry and communication ministry, close allies to the palace retain important positions.

The party firebrand, Mustapha Ramid, who is known for his anti-US rhetoric and defense of terror suspects in court cases, was appointed the new justice minister.

Aziz Akhannouch, one of the wealthiest men in the country with close ties to the palace, has retained the Agriculture Ministry, despite the fact that his party is not in the ruling coalition. Four other posts were given to people who are also not part of the ruling coalition and have been directly appointed by the palace, including religious affairs.

Both the Foreign Ministry and the Interior Ministry have also been assigned "minister delegates," with ties to the palace and may challenge the power of the ministers.

The PJD has formed a coalition with the Istiqlal or Independence Party, which helped the country win its freedom from France in 1956 as well as the Popular Movement, a party of rural notables, and the Party of Progress and Socialism of former communists.

Bureau Report

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